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West Haymarket arena work

Dirt work continues on the West Haymarket arena project north of the Harris Overpass on Tuesday, July 12, 2011. (ROBERT BECKER / Lincoln Journal Star)

The local group responsible for construction of the West Haymarket arena is ending its $4.3 million contract with the company that has been overseeing the project.

The services of SAIC, an international consulting firm, officially will end later this month, after the Joint Public Agency approves terminating the contract, according to Dan Marvin, a former City Councilman who is monitoring arena issues.

SAIC was hired last year as project manager because the city believed it needed outside expertise to manage the $340 million project. That includes the $168 million arena, plus surface and garage parking, new streets and sewers, and environmental cleanup work.

JPA expects to save between $500,000 and $1 million by ending the SAIC contract early, Marvin said.

The city used the project manager model successfully for the complex Antelope Valley project, said Marvin, who works for the JPA, but the agency since has decided the arena project is top-heavy with managers.

A letter spelling out the details of the breakup, between Mayor Chris Beutler -- a member of the three-person JPA -- and Terry Helms --an SAIC executive-- will be finalized this week, Marvin said.

The SAIC contract allows the city to dismiss the firm with a 10-day notice and without cause, said Jayne Snyder, an agency member.

Snyder represents the City Council on the agency board, Beutler the city administration, and Tim Clare the University of Nebraska.

Marvin and Snyder did not directly answer the question of whether the JPA was dissatisfied with the performance of SAIC's representative in Lincoln, Jim Martin, during a Tuesday interview with the Journal Star.

In an e-mail, Marvin said Martin was not responsible for the delay that cost the agency $3.4 million in additional payments to the Burlington Northern and Sante Fe Railroad.

Martin has been working as project manager on the West Haymarket arena project since August, first under temporary contracts, then under the $4.3 million contract approved by the JPA in March.

"We are leaving on good terms. The letter will indicate that," Snyder said.

Marvin did acknowledge the city has had some billing concerns with SAIC. The JPA once denied an SAIC bill for valet parking service, Marvin said.

The agency probably had more questions about SAIC bills than bills for other companies working on arena projects. But the agency also directly oversaw the SAIC contract, while SAIC monitored the other contracts, Marvin said.

Marvin said by June he was convinced the city did not need the extra layer of oversight and coordination provided by Martin.

One turning point, he said, was a Sunday when city staff and engineers from local firms worked to fix a sewer-related problem, Marvin said.

The SAIC representative was not part of that group.

The contract issue could appear on Friday's JPA agenda as an added "emergency" item, Marvin said.

The city has paid SAIC about $755,000 for work done between August and April, according to Don Herz, city finance director.

SAIC has billed an additional $518,158 for work through June, Herz said.

The JPA will continue a contract worth more than $900,000 with Paula Yancey, who owns PC Sports, for oversight of arena construction, Marvin said.

That Yancey contract is a subcontract with SAIC.

Arena project oversight and coordination now will be provided by a team that includes local engineering companies working on streets and sewers in the West Haymarket, Yancey, city staff and Mortenson Construction, the national company building the arena, Marvin said.

Mortenson has sophisticated scheduling software that tracks construction down to minute details like when dry walling will begin, Snyder said.

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Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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